In New Jersey’s 11th district – which includes Morristown – constituents have been eagerly watching how longtime Republican Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen [free-ling-HIGH-sen] will vote. He’s a moderate in a reliably Republican district, and so far has voted in line with President Trump’s conservative agenda. Now, in the throws of the health care debate, Kamila Kudelska reports many of his constituents have been pressuring him to stay true to his moderate base.
At 11 a.m. this morning Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen the last New Jersey Republican to make an official statement on the proposed GOP health care bill said no. He won’t vote for it. The main reason: deep cuts for medicaid coverage for his constituents and the ultimate cost for New Jerseyans. This is something he mentioned earlier this week at a town hall over the phone.
Frelinghuysen : I want to make sure that medicaid is fiscally sustainable. And that is what I’m trying to do to make sure we see it in the last bill.
Frelinghuysen’s statement is a big relief for constituents who have been campaigning in front of his district office in Morristown every Friday. Elizabeth Juliver is a cofounder of NJ 11th for a change. And she says they are not breathing as easily yet.
Juliver: We feel very vigilant. His words and his actions have not always added up in the recent years and months. He’s supported things things verbally like having trump taxes released, he says his for that but his votes have consistently been against it. (00:17)
The group NJ 11th for a change has organized Friday demonstrations since mid-January. They, like a lot of groups around the nation, are targeting moderate Republicans. Kristen Clarke was at Frelinghuysen’s office last week. She knows first hand the high cost of not having health insurance.
Clarke: The ACA would have saved my aunt’s life. she died right before it would’ve happened. she was a mother of two. She had started getting headaches. and bc she didn’t have health insurance she didn’t go right away to get a catscan. (00:14)
Within the week, her aunt who was in her early 40’s died as a result of a fluid mass in her brain – her six year old daughter at her side. Something that Clarke says might’ve been prevented by antibiotics.
Clarke: If the ACA was around at the time she would still be with us. So it’s not okay that they are thinking about taking away the ACA.
Clarke is a Republican. And she has voted for Frelinghuysen in the past. And she has been dismayed seeing him vote so conservatively.
Clarke: He’s not standing up for our interests. I want him to defend healthcare and his ppl. I want a reason to thank him.
Having people like Kristen Clarke show up in person at your office every Friday that’s every politician’s worst nightmare. Since mid-January over 2,000 people have been knocking on the Morristown office doors. By early afternoon, House speaker Paul Ryan went to the White House saying they don’t have enough votes for the bill to pass. But republicans are still planning to vote by the end of today. Jonathan Salant is the Washington correspondent for New Jersey Advance Media. He says the vote is being delayed since it’s not going well.
Salant: They don’t want to lose it would be really embarrassing to the president and to the house leadership if they lose in such a high profile matter, so if they don’t vote they can’t lose.
Salant says moderate republicans like Frelinghuysen have to be careful that they don’t lose their constituents support. Sandy Fey is a resident of New Jersey district 11. She’s an independent who’s always voted Republican, including for Frelinghuysen. Fey says she is alarmed by his voting patterns.
FEY: I think he was way more moderate before. But things have become so polarized lately that he is totally voting 100% for the trump agenda which really does not reflect the views of the community he is representing. (00:17)
But around 3:40 this afternoon, Associated Press announced that President Trump withdrew the proposed healthcare bill, so constituents may never know how Frelinghuysen would vote on the bill.
Kamila Kudelska, Columbia Radio News.